The sales funnel has become very different with the spread of online consumer reviews and advice. While much social media activity takes place outside of brand jurisdiction, companies can re-engage with their audience in new ways.

Social media have shaped a non-linear customer lifecycle


Social media has become a new channel for brands to engage their customers through, which in turn has influenced pre-existing marketing strategies. The traditional customer lifecycle was formerly traced through a sales funnel that followed an initially wide pool of customers that narrows through several steps, creating a smaller selection of customers as they “evaluate different purchase options, strip away choices, make changes, absorb information, and finally buy.” But social consumers act very different, and the old lifecycle model appeared to have shifted, according to a recent report from Social ad startup Wildfire.

Consumer lifecycle now integrates social conversations

With additional consumer activities such as reading or writing reviews, and participating in social network conversations, the customer dynamic often goes through many of the lifecycle stages with little or no influence from the brand. Over one-third of US online adults contribute to ratings, reviews, blogs and other social channels to share their opinions. Though this is a minority of connected customers, many Internet users (83 percent) read reviews, thus greatly strengthening its impact. The influence is greatly strengthened by personal relationships - 17 percent of social media users have bought something because a friend posted about it.

"Re-engaging” consumers is crucial

Instead of a one-way journey through the traditional customer lifecycle mentioned above, social media has created an environment where consumers often skip, repeat, or go backwards through the stages of discover, evaluate, buy, access, use, and get support. Though many of these stages are often completed independently from brands, companies can still utilize strategies that re-engage customers at critical moments, and make the most of unique benefits of social media marketing, especially to turn their social media audience into brand advocates. The Wildfire report shows that companies with high advocate populations saw many more media impressions than average brands due to a proper leveraging of their social media audience.